Google enters Peru: An interview with the company’s Latin America Director

Alexandre Hohogen

»42 years old.
»Married with three children.

»Studied Public Relations at the University of Sao Paulo and Management at IMD (Switzerland) and IIHR (Netherlands).

»He has worked at Dow Chemical, ABN Amro, Boehringer Ingelheim and has been director of UOL and HBO Brasil. He is Google’s director of Latin America since 2005.

Why come to Peru?
In many countries of the region there is a lot of search activity through Google, but we are not taking this fact profitably. After Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile and Colombia (where we already have presence), Peru is the country that focuses the greatest number of searches. We have seen that Peruvians like to search using Google. Ninety percent of online searches that are performed here are done with our platform. This led us to set Peru among our priorities for business. Moreover, unlike other countries with similar search activity, we have full confidence in the economic stability of this country.

Here the growth of Internet has been explosive in the last three years …
No other country has so many Internet connections, so much access from public booths. Regarding the use of one of our most popular products, YouTube (bought by Google in 2006), Peru ranks 15. This is mostly because people spend hours in the public booths or cabins browsing and using our products.

What kind of presence will you have in the country?
Google has a scalable business platform that can be operated from Brazil or Mexico. I lead a group that manages 25 countries in two languages. We have observed that having a direct link with the countries where Google has a lot of activity allows us to increase our revenues exponentially. Therefore, we are electing a national representative from Google for Peru. A second step is the formation of a team that provides full support for what Google wants to do here.

When will this be defined?
We have a deadline to close the first phase in March. The team that will support operations in Peru will initially be concentrated in Argentina, just like we are doing with operations in Chile and Colombia.

YouTube - Broadcast yourself-The international crisis is not yet fully overcome, and yet, Google is coming here. Does your plan in Peru consider any contingency in case the crisis continues or worsens during this year?
I don’t think that the fact that the crisis is not fully resolved is a risk to our operations in Peru. For the following reason: only 3% of advertising in Peru is done online. This is not a saturated market and there is significant growth potential. Google wants a significant share of that growth. Therefore, the crisis is not a variable that worries us.

Speaking about the operations of the company itself, what will be offered in Peru?
In the first place we will offer the sale of advertising spaces on our websites. Today we are focused on getting to know the Peruvian market better, mainly large and medium corporations. But we will also develop products that will be important for other sectors. We know that in Peru there is still much informality, in the best sense of the word. You have many small businesses, such as small stores on every corner. We believe that a product like Google Maps, which could allow for these businesses to be found in online searches, will help them grow through corporate digital identity on the web.

And how will you get those small businesses to be your customers?
We have experience at it. As I said, we have a scalable structure that supports customers such as Telefonica and HSBC, as well as Señor Jose who makes jams at home. We want to broaden the small customer’s base in the countries where we are. We will achieve this through partnerships with associations of small and micro enterprises. We have followed this model in other Latin American countries, offering the first marketing experience to thousands of small and micro enterprises.

Will the approach to larger companies be done directly?
We’ll do it through advertising agencies. They are an important part of our strategy because they know the needs of their customers. We have had meetings with major media agencies to explain how we will bring value to their relationship with the companies. We will also do educational work with these companies so that they know the advantages of developing campaigns through YouTube, for example.

And do you have a strategy to bring your brand closer to the Internet surfer? To the 90% who search using Google?
In addition to Google Maps, we will begin to integrate more results for searches such as videos. We will disseminate the Google Apps applications and look for the massification of YouTube, and social networking tools for Peru. All these add value to the lives of users. At some point, these products will start to become more local and develop content that Peruvians can identify with.

And how will that be done for, say, YouTube?
It is a complex process that has to identify the users IP address and locate where the videos are uploaded geographically, where the copyright administration is done, etc. In Latin America, only Brazil and Mexico have added locations for YouTube. This would not happen in Peru during the first year.

Does Google have plans to enter another country?
We have evaluated other markets, but we have no doubt about Peru. In some regions of Latin America, the real year begins after the Carnaval (laughs) but we have been in Lima working on this project since Jan. 19. This demonstrates that to Google, Peru is very important.

Translated from Spanish by Diana Schwalb